Tales of Zestiria the X
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?
I can't help but feel that Tales of Zestiria the X didn't quite think things through when it came to distribution of content. It's very tempting to blame the rushed feeling of this episode and the few that preceded it on the Berseria ad that took up two weeks of show time, because right now it seems like it would have been more useful to split this week's episode in two: one about the machinations of Bartlow back in Ladylake and how they affect Alisha and another about the consequences of humans becoming hyouma. As it stands, neither of the two really get enough development, and since both feel important to the larger plot, that's a real issue.
The more interesting of the two plot points is Sorey's first human hyouma purification. We briefly touched on how the malevolence tainting the water is partially responsible for the plague in Marlind last week, giving us a mini-environmental impact lecture this week with larger repercussions for Sorey's understanding of malevolence as a whole. He did manage, with Mikleo's help, to successfully purify the dragon last week, who turned out to have been the original Seraph charged with watching over Marlind. The increasing malevolence surrounding the town and seeping into the land like metaphysical toxic waste caused his transformation, so Sorey and Mikleo's purification of the water supply isn't only preventing another plague outbreak, it's also keeping the Seraph healthy and humanoid. But some of the malevolence isn't in the environment or the animals: it's in the people.
That brings Sorey to his first attempt to purify a human turned hyouma. While it is successful, the toll is higher than he (or Mikleo, the Seraph least in the know at this point) had anticipated – unlike when he purifies the land, water, or a non-human, the malevolence doesn't just vanish or disperse into the air; it is taken into the Shepherd himself. While Sorey (and presumably other Shepherds) are equipped to handle the influx, it isn't comfortable, and as an added bonus, it comes with the hyouma's memories of the event that triggered his transformation. In this case, it's a fight gone sour when one of the participants reached for a weapon. Sorey understands that both the murdered and the murderer had cause for their actions, but we get the distinct feeling that none of that really helps temper the discomfort. Both the living and the dead must be purified, and that fact truly drives home to Sorey what a burden he has taken up by donning the mantle of Shepherd. This is the one thing that he can't just bounce back from with his boundless optimism, and it's the one time he seems to doubt that he can really pull this whole thing off.
It also opens the door for an interesting parallel between the water cycle and the emotional health of the land. In the beginning of the episode, Sorey and Mikleo learn that they have to keep purifying the same water source because the original tainted water became rain, which fell back down to contaminate the same land. When Sorey purifies the soul of the hyouma's victim, he comments that the need for revenge or even just sorrow for the dead can be absorbed into the land, bringing about more malevolence. As he says this, we see a woman crying above the deceased's grave, her tears analogous to the rain that keeps tainting the purified water. There's a real sense of hopelessness to this scene, not just because the woman is mourning, but because there's no way that Sorey, or an army of Shepherds, could make this right. It's a bleak picture, made even moreso by the link to the environment, probably the most depressing scene of the series to date.
The episode does attempt to link this back to the Alisha storyline when a group of pseudo-ninjas attacks Alisha as she's walking across a courtyard at night. Alisha, who has been informed that her political rival (at least in an ideological sense) has been amassing troops at the border, is planning to thwart his efforts and stop a war, so the ninjas want to stop her from stopping him. This is where things got a bit confusing – stopping Alisha from countering Bartlow's war plans won't actually avert bloodshed in the long run, because if they think that he isn't planning to go to war then they're way too naïve to be playing this game at all. The fear seems to be that any deaths will trigger more deaths in an endless cycle of revenge, which, while it does have merit, is more confusing than anything because there's no way that stopping Alisha will actually prevent much; in fact, Alisha's forces may be able to reduce the number of deaths if they succeed. Basically, it feels like a very clumsy way to tie the two storylines together while introducing Rose's true face as a secret assassin. Had this whole section been given its own episode, I feel like it might have fared better in the making sense department.
Be that as it may, war is coming next week. It will be interesting to see if these two plotlines can be brought together into some sort of vaguely conclusive ending before the season break.
Tales of Zestiria the X is currently streaming on Funimation.
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